Friday, February 19, 2010

How to Bring Health Care to Its Knees

... just infect hospital electronic medical record (EMR) systems with a worm:
Computer systems at the West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust were infected by the worm last Friday, leaving hospital staff unable to book appointments via computer. The outbreak has been contained but some hospital IT systems remain unavailable, resulting in ongoing delays to patients and affecting the smooth running of the medical facility.

A hospital spokeswoman told El Reg that the malware infection, identified as the Conficker-A, struck on Friday afternoon. "Most of the computers had to be cleaned, so we've had to rely on a pen and paper system to book appointments. Technicians worked over the weekend to clean up systems. Priority systems are running but the clean-up is likely to last until the end of the week."
The really scary thing is, today's medical personnel (newer doctors, nurses, residents, medical students, secretaries, lab technicians - the whole works) have no clue how to work a paper-based medical record any longer. Worse, there's no regular contingency plan in place should an EMR crash for over an hour.

But no worries, it'll never happen.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is just one of the many things that concerns me about the push toward electronic medical records. Windows machines are the preferred target of malware writers, suffering attacks of hundreds of thousands of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, bots, and spyware. Add to that the already widespread lack of effective security for individuals' private data stored on third-party computers--in the case of medical records, including name, date of birth, insurance ID number, address, and social security number--and this push to adopt these systems strikes me as a recipe for disaster.

And we're being told that adopting these systems are going to make our medical data readily available in any healthcare setting we happen to enter. How's that going to work when they're not even compatible with each other?